Mahalo: Making searches more human

mahalo logoNew search engine technologies keep coming up - even with the general consensus that “no one can do it like Google“. Now Mahalo, a Santa Monica based company, wants to do it better, with a human touch. A group of 40 editors will use neural fuzzy logic to determine which results are really relevant, when you search the web.

It is amazing to me how much interest search engines still garner. Charles Knight lists 100 top alternative search engines. When the author talks of starting a spreadsheet with a rolling list of the best search engines, you know something is afoot. Earlier we reviewed the search engine Snap, an Idealab start up, and Lingotek, a translation based service for searching multilingual content.

Right now, the Mahalo site (in Alpha) - launched May 30, 2021 - looks more like a shopping comparison site, with pre-catergorized searches for popular sites such as Digg. The categories hit the hot spots - Technology, Health, Sports, Food, Music etc.

It remains to be seen if Mahalo can bridge the chasm between usefulness and ubiquity. Its 40 Santa Monica based employees have turned out 4000 pages of results currently. One hopes that the production rate is not linear, and that they have some tricks up their sleeves to scale up to the level of the current algorithmic based search engines like Google and Yahoo.

As a test, I tried out their kids toys category. Clicking on Bratz brought up a wealth of information on this established icon in ‘tween town, including a very clever Sticky entitled Guide Note: that elaborates on lesser known facts such as the names of the four original dolls.

A search on “Club Penguin” - to be fair it is not really a “toy” I guess - yielded a few unrelated searches on sports teams, followed by a relevant set of results from Google (when a query is made that is not in the Mahalo database, the engine presents the Google results for the search).

The larger search engines such as Google and Yahoo are dismissing a human powered search engine for now. According to the WSJ, Google claims that 25% of its searches every day are new ones, which would mean that any non-machine type of search would be playing catch up, perennially.

I think this Sequoia backed search engine one to watch, though. My feeling is, more than a pure search engine, Mahalo will find revenue opps in direct partnerships with merchants who want the branding opportunity of having a full page of results focussed entirely on their product, and it will also provide value to highly focussed searchers who are tired of paging through tons of irrelevant results to get to the few that they really need, and want.

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